Some Questions for Artists


Are you influenced by the work of other artists? Do you have a list of influences that you acknowledge? Is it necessary that the viewer know your influences? Or are they self-evident? If they’re self-evident, does that mean there’s a chance that someone will think its derivative? Is that a problem? Should we care about that? Or is it OK to enjoy it for what it is, unencumbered by guilt or foreknowledge that this has all been done before, and will be likely done again very soon? Or is it all new and original and this is the first time anyone has ever seen something like this before? Do you see your work in a historical context, or is it something for the moment, or indeed, is it for the ages?

How would you describe what you do to your hairdresser? When you say ‘I’m an artist’ do they ask ‘what sort of things do you paint?’

What do you say when you’re not a painter? Say you’re a video artist – how do you explain that to your accountant? Your mechanic? What do you say to your relatives at Christmas about your career? Do you tell them it’s all going well? How do you explain to them the idea that you deserve to get a grant from an arts funding body? Or indeed, what do you say when you don’t get one?

When you’re in your studio, do you lock the door? Do you listen to music? Do you schedule regular breaks? Do you work in series, or one thing at a time? Do you stockpile art supplies, or does going out to get some give you a good reason to leave the studio for a while? When you come back with a new tube of Titanium White, are you thinking ‘Oh boy, let’s go!’ or ‘Oh Jesus, will I ever be free?’ Do you show your work in progress to other artists? To your partner? Your family? Your kids? Do you ever show it to them on the condition that they don’t say anything, yet you’re closely scanning them for a reaction? When it’s going well in the studio, how does it feel? Do you trust the feeling and embrace it? Or are you chronically asking yourself, why am I feeling like this?

Now that you’ve finished your artwork, do you ask yourself – is it really finished?

Can you really tell when it’s finished? Do you sign it? File it? Send it off to a gallery? Or put it with the others in a pile? Can you come back to it in 40 years and change it a bit, say liven up the yellow? Or is the work, once it’s finished, a bit like it’s set in concrete – an archival artefact, a tribute to your eternal optimism? Or if it’s, let’s say, literally made of concrete, does the pickaxe ever come out to help erase from the world the only true mistake you’ve ever made? Do you ever see your work on the living room walls of friends or relatives, perhaps even on those of actual collectors, and think, ‘UH OH’? Is it like seeing an ex-partner, a rekindling of an old love affair? Or is it more like, ‘I’m glad we parted when we did’? Do you give your old work the cold shoulder? Or are you exchanging phone numbers for a little metaphorical catch up?

When you have an exhibition, do you invite everyone you know to the opening? Is it a big blowout event with old school friends, former art teachers, kids, pets and peers all jostling to be a part of the fun, a big dinner afterwards and a taxi ride home?

Or is an exhibition opening a cold, calculated pitch at sales that you undergo and keep it all unemotional and businesslike, everyone going to their respective homes after the gallery lights are switched off? Is that how you also consider the whole rigmarole of entering prizes? Is it just another ‘day at the office’? Or is it more like a fantasy of sheer and pure success where your genius will finally be acknowledged and you can flaunt it for at least the next 12 months, or such time as the prize loses its lustre and is cancelled, or loses all its credibility and may as well have been cancelled?

When you look at the work of other artists, are you brutally honest? Or diplomatically neutral? Do you tell another artist you love their work when you really do? Would you tell someone you liked another artist’s work even when you don’t know them personally? Would you send them an email? Say hi at an art gallery? Send them a bunch of roses? Would you ask them to marry you?

Opinion Words by Andrew Frost